Improve your Reputation with 1 List

So where were we before Labor Day and 09-09-09?

Ah yes: Numerology for Managers, which included a bit about our striving for common sense solutions.

What we managers are supposed to do, is get work to make sense.

We are the people who bring sensibility to worthwhile work.

Well, wouldn’t it be fantastic, if going to your manager, and talking to them about the stuff which concerned you was common sense?

Seems we’ve a way to go in getting there. Just read this at Get Me Jamie Notter and it made me cringe in that truth hurts sort of way:

[The deep thinking we value] uses real data from real life within YOUR organization (not a case study), but we don’t end up with that data because (a) both managers and employees are too busy and (b) employees won’t tell the managers the truth anyway.

We need to make some shifts. Getting more truth spoken is one of them…

That statement challenged my own thinking about the shifts we can make, and I want to offer you some help. In keeping with our effort this month to develop a useful Numerology for Managers, how about we start with the number 1. I offer you a reprint of one of my older postings today, originally called The 1 List Every Manager Must Work With, when written for Managing with Aloha Coaching.

I agree that we need to get “more truth spoken,” however I want to jump ahead a bit: When the truth IS spoken, then what? Does it just glare at everyone like a big elephant in the room we pretend not to see, or does someone deal with it?

Guess who the buck stops with: The manager.

A reputation is something you earn by doing something else

To earn a good reputation as a manager, that “something else” you must do is no big secret: You must follow-up.

Come to think of it, if you have kids, you get a good rep as a parent that way too. If you have friends, you get a good rep as their best bud by following up as well.

So why don’t we all follow up better than we do?

I believe that most of us do start with good intentions. We just need a better system, and this is where The 1 List can help. If you are a manager seeking a better reputation for the work you do, replace whatever “To Do” List you might be using with this one instead.

The 1 List Every Manager Must Work With

This is the very first tool I teach new supervisors (and any struggling manager) to use;
It works no matter the industry they are in.
And it works no matter the country they are in.

It works whether they are new to their positions, or are seasoned pros.
And it works whether they have just one employee or thousands.

It works whenever it is calm, and they are caught up, with time to spare for strategic thinking.
It works whenever it is frenetic and crazy, and they can’t see that light at the end of the tunnel.

It works pretty much no matter what the circumstances are.
And get this ”“ it works in magnificent partnership with my beloved Daily 5 Minutes ®.

What every manager must work with, and work with daily, is this:
A simple list kept easily and best with pencil or pen, and an 8×10 sheet of paper folded into three columns.

This list will endear every manager to every employee, every boss, every supplier or vendor partner, and every customer.
When used, it will single-handedly reinvent a manager’s reputation, as it simultaneously functions as that manager’s best training and coaching architect.

At the top of this list is its marching order, and right beneath that, as the headings of its three columns, are all the instructions managers will need.

The marching order, and what this magic manager’s list is called?


What, Who, When and Why

The headings of the three columns on this single-page list are,

1. What I must Do to Honor my Word
2. Who I need to Follow-up with, and By When
3. Why it is so Important to Them, and thus, to Me.

When management is a calling (as it should only be) managers work more for other people than they do for themselves. The work they do for others IS the work they do for themselves, for when they elevate the human condition, improving it as it aches to be improved, they are most fulfilled in the work they are most needed for, discovering that being a manager can be the most satisfying and rewarding work in existence.

When employees cry out to me that their managers “don’t know what they are doing,”
or “are never around when we need them”
or “are too poorly trained; it’s like we have a revolving door of management trainees here”
or “don’t really care about us”
or “always seem to be working on the wrong things at the wrong times”
or “said they’d take care of it, but we all know what that means”
” the complaining and whining goes on and on” nine times out of ten I will discover that the manager they are referring to has lost all credibility due to a horrible lack of follow-through. They may start with the best of intentions in very sincere conversations, but they have no reliable system for finishing well, and they are not held accountable.

On the other hand, the managers with exceptional follow-through are referred to as “the great ones.”

A key point is that great managers don’t necessarily do all the work and tasks involved; what they do is orchestrate them well, and they keep work flowing, moving all road-blocks out of the way, human and otherwise. They work to remove any obstacles or adversity (or excuses and yeah-buts) and they communicate to everyone involved about status and progress consistently and reliably.

If you are a manager, is that what you do?

Let’s talk a bit more about those three columns

1. What I must Do to Honor my Word

This column is described this way because a conversation with someone is likely to be what will trigger the entry you are making. What did you agree to follow-up on? This column will teach managers to “eat an elephant one bite at a time.” A common reason good intentions will fall apart is because we’ll make promises that are way, way too big for us to keep. Using this list over time, managers learn to work from conversation to next conversation and tear issues, problems, and projects into doable baby steps. Then the following column becomes a simple status-check conversation of “Here’s where we are now, what should we work on as our next steps, and how much time will that need?”

2. Who I need to Follow-up with, and By When

This may seem obvious, but in my investigations of trip-ups that have occurred, I am amazed at how many times a manager did follow up, but never reported back to the person they’d made their commitment to. Their reputation and credibility has gotten marred by a bad assumption that “the results will speak for themselves.” Well, not really, and not always. In fact, the norm is that they seldom do. This column also helps cure avoidance behavior; if you didn’t get something done yet, just honestly say so and make a new agreement. Don’t just hope the other person will forget about it; trust me, they probably won’t, and the next column helps you understand why.

3. Why it is so Important to Them, and thus, to Me

This column is a teacher called “Empathy Practice,” one whom all managers need to spend more time with. For us to help people best, we need to see a problem or issue in the way that they see it, and since we can’t usually “walk a day in [their] shoes” the best way to understand their point of view is to key in on why an issue is important to them. I coach managers to work with people without robbing others of the engagement, satisfaction, and growth of doing their work for them ”“ the mantra we speak of is “Do with, not for.” There is a balance to be achieved, that this column helps us understand one person at a time.

Management is a situational art. Coaches like me try to help with certain things, and we can provide tools and tips that shorten the learning curve, however a manager’s best teachers, bar none, are their employees and the other people they work with and are committed to. This is the same reason The Daily Five Minutes ® works so well: All you need to know about you can find out from the people you work with side by side, day in and day out.

Managers get trained on the job in the flow of the work they are responsible for. When they follow-through consistently, they excel because they deliver well; they exceed expectations. Their word is believed and trusted.

So take this from me; the 1 best list that every manager must work with says THE FOLLOW-UP I NEED TO COMPLETE at the top, and has those three columns to break it down to task in the most achievable, common sense way. What they write on it, and how consistently they work through it day by day will determine that manager’s success. Just ask their employees.

Alaka‘i connections

Are those What, Who, When and Why words vaguely familiar? Hope so! From the archives:

  1. Leadership is Why and When (Talking Story link)
  2. Management is What and How (Talking Story link)
  3. The 30-70 Rule in Leading and Managing (Talking Story link)

For those who prefer them, here are the Talking Story links embedded in this posting:

  1. Labor Day Aloha
  2. Just Once in Our Lifetimes! 09-09-09
  3. Numerology for Managers
  4. Two Gifts: Values and Conversation (About The Daily 5 Minutes ®)
  5. What the heck do you mean by ‘Achievable?’
  6. What’s your Calling? Has it become your Ho‘ohana?

Article originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” September 2009
Managers: Improve your Reputation with 1 List

Photo credit: Drilled by cayusa on Flickr


  1. Rosa Say says

    An update: And a timely example :-)

    I just came back from some business travel, and I put this simple list to work for me as well. I’ve blog comments to answer, emails to respond to, and calls to return after being offline for a few days, and so I started a fresh list by concentrating on the second column first: Who I need to Follow-up with, and By When

    Doing so helped me set some quick priorities! When I jotted down my quick answers in the first column (What I must Do to Honor my Word) I separated them into single actions (for quick wins) and longer projects (which I will soon calendar in my upcoming Weekly Review).

    By the time I got to my third column (Why it is so Important to Them, and thus, to Me) I could see which agreements I might need to readdress, with that “Why” question cluing me into the best approach to take, and giving me conversational triggers that I might have otherwise missed. My single actions in the first column with quick wins I can take first will come before my phone calls, effectively killing any procrastination.

    All of this has been about someone else so far, and I do need to work on my own stuff too, versus getting swallowed up by everyone else’s concerns, so “importance to me too” in the 3rd column, and the option of coming to better agreements which are more realistic, is very helpful.

  2. says

    Some time back, I found a post on the old site, and made my way today to the new blog. After a little bit of digging, I have to say: WOW. I feel like there are a lot of huge yet simple things about communication and personal responsibility here. My quest in life is to really find my path to doing something epic with my time here. I’m looking forward to gleaning the good stuff from the blog and look forward to checking out the book as well.

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Eli, welcome to the “new” and thanks for doing that “digging” —I moved the site to WordPress this summer to launch into my 6th year of blogging, and am so cheered to know you like what you see, and what you have read here: You hit on two threads which do run at the core of Talking Story when you mention communication (value of Kākou) and personal responsibility (value of Kuleana).

      I see that you have launched a brand new blog with a very appealing name as well —congratulations, and smart choice! I hope you find that Epicdoo will serve your learning and your growth as well as Talking Story has served mine. It is early morning as I write this, and so I raise my coffee cup in toast to us both: Here’s to a new friendship and partnership as we learn together. This may be a good post to read through the next time you can visit, for it was written in the newsletter style to share current goings-on: Ho‘ohana Community Focus Delivers Harmony


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